As my cockatiels get older, they are spending more and more time on their flat perches. I still provide a variety of standard perches for them, but their tired, old feet always head back to the flat perches before too long.
Flat perches gain a lot of points for offering comfort to my cockatiels in their golden years, but lose points with their constant need for cleaning. The beauty of the design of a standard perch, taken from nature, is that droppings fall from the bird to the cage floor, as does discarded food. As usual, Mother Nature has worked all the kinks out for us.
If I don’t clean the flat perches every day, however, the cockatiels will be standing in a pile of their own poop and whatever vegetables were served that day. Even though round perches don’t “collect” debris in the same way a flat perch does, it does not mean they remain clean.
When your parrot picks up food, traces of it will stick to his feet which he will transfer to his perches and cage bars as he maneuvers through the cage. These traces of food collect bacteria even when build-up is not visible to the eye. Birds often walk through their droppings and transfer those in the same manner.
The problem with dirty perches is twofold:
1) A bird will walk through bacteria on his perches and then pick up his food with those same dirty feet.
2) A bird’s foot is not fleshy and it is a very short trip for bacteria that has penetrated the skin to reach the bone. A defiant infection in that area could cause a bird to lose their foot.
Because parrots are so messy, areas that need attention are generally obvious. It is very easy to overlook the need to clean the perches. I actually have to write myself reminders.
How often you need to clean your bird’s perches depends on your bird and your cage set up, but the answer is: “as needed”. Many birds wipe their beaks off on their perches and if the perch is located beneath a commonly used area of the cage, dropping might land there frequently. If there is visible build up on the perches, they need to be cleaned at that time.
For perches that “appear” to be clean, wipe them down with a damp cloth twice a week and try to make it a habit to scrub them down using hot water and dish soap once a month. Easier still is using a handheld steamer to clean the perches. It will kill the bacteria and get into hard to reach crevices AND, this is the best part, you can clean the perches without removing them from the cage. You WILL need to remove your bird while you are steaming for safety reasons, steam can seriously burn them.
Continuous cleaning is a difficult part of bird ownership, and I don’t mean to be adding to your work load, but perches are something your bird has daily contact with and we need to keep them clean so the environment remains healthy for our birds.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.